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Christie Rampone has big U.S. finish in mind at Women's World Cup

Christie Rampone was a fresh-faced 24-year-old when she played in her first Women's World Cup in 1999. And the U.S. won.

But the Americans haven't won another since. So Rampone, now a 40-year-old mother of two, figures a victory in this year's title game Sunday with Japan would be a fitting finale.

"That would be an amazing way to end it," she said.

Injuries cost Rampone her starting spot last winter so she's played just 10 minutes in this tournament. And like teammate Abby Wambach, who has also seen her playing time greatly reduced, Rampone has embraced her new responsibility, which she described as "supporting, encouraging and pushing in practice and trying to just be ready in case needed."

"It's a different role but at the same time . . . I don't take anything for granted and still have been enjoying the ride," she said.

Exactly when that ride will end, Rampone isn't sure. After the World Cup, she'll join her teammates on an exhibition tour. And then in December she'll decide whether to try to make the team for next summer's Olympic tournament in Brazil.

If she does play there, she says that will be her last major international tournament.

"I don't think I'll be 44 playing in another World Cup," she said.

Biden to attend final

Vice President Joe Biden and his wife Jill will head the official U.S. government delegation for Sunday's final.

The vice president also attended last summer's men's World Cup in Brazil, where he saw the U.S. beat Ghana in its group-play opener, and was present at the opening ceremony of the 2010 event in South Africa.

The Bidens will be joined by Bruce Heyman, the U.S. ambassador to Canada; Evan Ryan, assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs; and former U.S. players Cobi Jones and Mia Hamm.

Two people who won't be attending the final are FIFA President Sepp Blatter and Secretary General Jerome Valcke. In his role as FIFA president, Blatter has traditionally presented the winning team with the World Cup trophy.

But with several FIFA officials under investigation by U.S. and Swiss authorities for allegations involving such issues as racketeering, money laundering and tax evasion, both Blatter and Valcke chose to remain home in Switzerland. Valcke had earlier canceled a scheduled appearance at the tournament's opening ceremony.

Neither has been charged with any crime.

"That Mr. Blatter and Mr. Valcke are not here, I think that's another topic," Tatjana Haenni, FIFA's head of women's soccer, said during a Friday conference that reviewed the monthlong tournament. "Who hands the trophy over and who is [present] and what kind of dignitaries we have and what kind of politicians are in the stands, is maybe for the teams playing at that time and the spectators not so important.

"I think it's a good sign for women's football there are so many people interested in the game."

Women get union help

FIFPro, the union representing the world's top soccer players, wants to increase support for females, inviting them to become direct members and allowing player representation in countries where there is no other players' union.

Former Swedish national player Caroline Jonsson, head of FIFPro's Women's Football Committee, told the Associated Press the diversity of women's soccer is "huge" and "we have to find a way to reach out" to all the players.

Jonsson said the impetus of FIFPro's initiative to include women was the outcry about the use of artificial turf instead of grass at the Women's World Cup.

The group's first move was to create an advisory board of current women's players.

"This is a marathon, and not a sprint," Jonsson told the AP. "But we are taking the important first steps."

kevin.baxter@latimes.com

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